The renewal project of the KUMA LAB website began in 2021 and finally launched in May 2022. Here, we would like to share with you some of the features of our site and the story behind its completion.
(1) design research
First, we visited 200 websites of various laboratories in the universities, digital fabrication centers, architectural design offices, art galleries, and museums for our reference. Architectural firm’s websites tell us some patterns of layouts of various projects and the effects of fonts and colors. By comparing the websites of laboratories, we learned the fundamental elements of a university laboratory’s website.
- research activities
- member: faculty, staff, students
- announcement of events and awards
However, KUMA LAB has no students affiliated with the laboratory. The period of activity is limited to five years. Our lab covers a wide range of research subjects and areas of interest since faculty members from different fields belong to the lab. Through the design research, we recognized our lab might be far from a typical university laboratory.
(2) design principles
When we compared the activities and origins of our laboratory with those of other laboratories in the design research process, we realized that it is difficult to understand what KUMA LAB does from the outside.
- three axes: International Design Studio, Fabrication, Archives
- three locations: T-BOX, Events, Publications
Exploring the history (archives) and technology (fabrication), we hope to interact with researchers and architects from abroad, both online and offline, to think internationally and to form organic relationships and communities. Our logo implies our attitude of “changing and going beyond existing boxes”.
We need a platform that not only gathers people at events but also makes them visible and strengthens them online. The international community of architecture is what we should show on our website, and we have decided on two guiding principles.
- visualizing our community
- collecting the interests from the outside
(3) design solution
When it comes to visualizing community and interest, we have the foggiest. Additionally, our budget is too small to include any interactive tools like a chat function. Our website should be simple but functional. So, we ask for help from talented designers.
Fortunately, we have Mariko Okazaki as a graphic designer, who is known for her constructive designs in both Japanese and English and her distinctive way of handling typography, and Shuyna Hagiwara as a web designer, who has a wealth of experience and a deep background in graphics for the art world.
Since our goal is to visualize the community, we were enthusiastic about the member pages. The human face is strong, but we do not want visitors to categorize our members by their looks.
To this request from us, Mariko’s reaction is powerful: “The only thing will be left in visitors’ minds is the image of the text”. This led to the decision to ask our members to provide a photo of their bookshelves and books they are reading as a profile photo, instead of a picture of faces. The book covers and bookshelves show textual information. With a closer look, it reveals what kind of interests the owner has.
(4) design details
When you click the page of each individual on the “PARTY” page, you will read a brief interview along with his/her bio.
QR codes are attached to the boxes of the models displayed at T-BOX. Visitors of T-BOX can read the descriptions of each model by jumping to the website from the QR code. For this, Shunya elaborated on responsible design.
It is impossible to visit one location frequently without strong intention, so we publish a monthly newsletter as a kind of window for our platform online/offline. The newsletter delivers a summary of our activities in one month and makes announcements for upcoming events. You can subscribe to it from the “Subscribe” page.
We tried to design a flow line in our website as far as it is possible since we work somewhat for architecture. We will continue to make during making over the past five years.
Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mariko Okazaki and Shunya Hagiwara.